We had better be wary of others entering the country after lockdown is eased – 5th May 2020

 
A Blog by Dr David J Flavell PhD FRCPath & Dr Sopsamorn (Bee) Flavell BSc PhD
Scientific Directors of Leukaemia Busters

5th May 2020

Ports of Entry for Coronavirus

The very first thing we wrote about on the 3rd April at the beginning of this series of blogs was “Flights of Fancy where we questioned the obvious lack of precautions and apparent negligent lax attitude at airports and other ports of entry into Britain at a time when COVID-19 was raging in a number of countries. We had friends and family message us after they had passed through Heathrow as transit passengers expressing their horror that they had breezed straight through the airport in March and April without any quarantine procedures or even so much as a question about their health. This negligence almost certainly contributed to an increased transmission of COVID-19 brought into the UK from overseas passengers, something that could easily have been avoided had screening and quarantine measures been in place at ports of entry.

We still ask and will go on asking the question as to why this was allowed to happen?

Was it we wonder the “herd immunity” hypothesis being subscribed to at this time that drove this lax attitude and with it a general sense of a lack of urgency?

Whatever the case may be, what is certain is that the reason for this laxity is probably linked to the UK governments reluctance and subsequent delay in calling for a lock down in early to mid-March with the direct consequence of more infections and more deaths that might otherwise have been avoided.

Now here we are a month later on the 4th May with a grand total of 190,584 cases, 28,734 deaths and still 3,985 new cases today in a climate where there is an ever increasing expectation that lock down will be eased soon. Let it be hoped that the government personalities responsible have learned from the experience that has resulted in this situation; they can but hope that we can forgive them for their blunders. We said in our original “Flights of Fancy blog from over a month ago that there needed to be strict controls at all points of entry into the UK with mandatory tests and enforced quarantine procedures for all arriving passengers. This still isn’t happening because up until this point in time there are probably those in government who refuse to believe that taking full control and restricting access through our borders would make a difference.

Contrast the UK’s figures with those of New Zealand who were poorly prepared for the pandemic but who decided to lock down earlier than us in the game and severely restrict their ports of entry. Today New Zealand reported ZERO new cases , they seem to have squashed the epidemic through their early actions.

Surely, if there ever was one, this is a damning indictment of the failure of the UK to act quickly or appropriately enough. Had we done so, we might now be in the same happy position that New Zealand is in today.

To get a measure of the scale of the UK’s very limited travel and other restrictions in comparison to other countries who are now doing better than we, take a look at the Pandemic International SOS website, it is very revealing.

The transport secretary Grant Shapps said yesterday that the UK government is belatedly considering what steps to take with arriving passengers at UK ports of entry that may include quarantine and requirement to install a tracing app on their mobile phone. In the meanwhile there are still over 15,000 people arriving through UK ports every day and yet there is still no enforced quarantine procedures, merely a leaflet that is handed to each arrivee telling them to voluntarily stay home and what to do if they develop symptoms.

This really is not good enough. There needs to be more stringent procedures in place at all ports of entry that includes mandatory PCR testing for infection and enforced quarantine for 14 days for all arriving passengers at designated government run centres, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not.

It is the sacrifices made by all of us during the lock down period that started on the 23rd March that has succeeded in bringing down the infection rate in the community. We’re not sure that we could forgive the government a second time if, when the easing of lock down begins, infection is re-introduced back into the community from travelers arriving onto our shores from abroad. It’s obvious to most of us what needs to be done to avoid this so please UK government just do it for all our sakes.

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